The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
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Haisla totem pole carved by Sam Robinson.
Image by Louisa Smith.

Cultural Preservation

Each time a language or culture is lost, we loose an irreplaceable and exquisite way of being. Each time a well-loved building is torn down without a trace, or a gathering place paved over, a strand of culture is frayed.

Culture is the highest expression of what it means to be human. It is a measure of our species' contribution to planetary Biodiversity. Cultural Preservation emphasizes the need to protect, restore, and honor all forms of Cultural Diversity. It is a cornerstone of Community.

Cultural Preservation recognizes the many strands of culture: language, stories, songs, dances, practical skills; buildings; sacred sites; artifacts; arts and crafts; relationships to the land; and forms of subsistence. In the context of the built environment, the appropriate re-use of well-loved and culturally significant buildings and sites can provide cultural renewal. Landscapes retain memories of old patterns of use, from the long trails of oaks planted across California for food and game; to the fire-maintained savannas of the Applegate now closing back in with forest; to the ancient salmon weirs on the British Columbia coast. These sites can be celebrated, and these patterns of use hold clues for twenty-first century management systems grounded in traditional ecological knowledge.

In Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia, a wide range of representatives from First Nations, governments, commercial fisheries, and environmental groups has formed the Regional Aquatic Management Society. This group is using local knowledge, some of it ancient, to manage local fisheries for the health of the whole ecosystem, and with benefits to flow fairly to all participants. Traditional cultural methods for managing ecosystems are extremely sophisticated and timely. They offer powerful models for monitoring, restoring, and sharing the benefits from ecological commons.

The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in Port Townsend, Washington teaches, and thereby preserves, a number of traditional maritime crafts, including fine wooden boatbuilding. The U'mista Cultural Center in Alert Bay, British Columbia, teaches the Kwak'wala language to a new generation. The Sitka Arts and Ecology Center in Neskowin, Oregon blends craft, fine art, and science. Such institutions keep the old arts and ways alive, blending them with the emerging Conservation Economy.

Find ways to keep the whole spectrum of cultural practices vibrant and alive.

Examples of this pattern in action:

The Royal British Columbia Museum is a place of discovery. Through three unique galleries, the Museum showcases the human and natural history of British Columbia.

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:

National Trust for Historic Preservation


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Pattern Index

A Conservation Economy

Social Capital

Fundamental Needs

Subsistence Rights

Shelter For All


Access To Knowledge


Social Equity


Cultural Diversity

Cultural Preservation

Sense Of Place

Beauty And Play

Just Transitions

Civic Society

Natural Capital

Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Fisheries


Compact Towns And Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services


Economic Capital

Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Sustainable Materials Cycles

Resource Efficiency

Waste As Resource

Product As Service

Local Economies

Value-Added Production

Rural-Urban Linkages

Local Assets

Bioregional Economies

Fair Trade

True Cost Pricing

Product Labeling